I Believe in Winter
I believe in winter….Perhaps making this statement in the middle of a snow storm , would make it seem that I’m struggling to find something to believe it. Oh, did I forget to mention the sub zero degree temperatures? And what about all those people yelling “Global warming, yeah, right!”
And in the midst of this weather, there is always the change of plans issue. No, we won’t be able to make it over, we can’t make it over to the drifts in the drive way! Sure we’ll reschedule , when the weather is more predictable, like in, let’s say June”! Yep, it’s a stretch to express a belief in winter given these typical descriptions of the cold months but try expressing this belief when all neighborhood snowbirds are calling you from a gentler climate just to find out how your snow blower is working! And while one is always happy to hear about the wonderful vacation someone has had, you can’t help but notice the charitable tone in their voice and the somewhat pitiful look in their eyes as they generously give you some grapefruit straight from the Florida condo in which they stayed.
So, no doubt, plenty can think I’m stretching to express something I believe in . But as I sit beside a fire and look outside, at the freshly fallen snow, the covered landscape is beautiful. As I look at the snow , I try to determine if this is good “ski” snow. Is it powdery? How ‘bout the kids, will they make snow men? snow forts? Angels in the snow? One of the things I was lectured about as a kid was, “You need to look at the winter weather as providing special conditions to do special things, like ski, like skate, like play hockey on those backyard hockey rinks. And if you do that, you’ll look forward to the winter. “ You know how, when you were a kid, you sometimes hated to admit that anything your parents told you was true, well, guess what? They were right! When you stopped looking at conditions as limitations rather than as opportunities, you’re able to see the positive, like that proverbial “silver lining in the gray cloud”. And in the case of winter that gray cloud can be taken literally! Was this advice, one of those “life lesson” things?
I’m not “roasting chestnuts on an open fire” or doing anything else so picturesque and worthy of famous lyrics, but there is a certain peace and calmness that comes with a limited number of activities that one can plan on in the middle of January. Extended family members come over for family dinners, neighbors stop by for a coffee on a random afternoon, conversations with next door neighbors spontainsouly take places while shoveling snow, efforts to make sure that the elderly widow next door has her walk and drive cleared, are the meetings with friends and neighbors that don’t necessarily take place in the warm months when they, we, can so easily be distracted by places to go, and things to do. The pace is slower and eyes and ears are opened to the news, concerns, and events in another’s life. News and events that might not be noticed when there is more noise and distractions around.
What about the shorter daylight hours? People suffer from that light deprivation issue…But the shorter days make longer nights…More sleep? Maybe. The limitation on activities, and the fewer distractions contrast with the multitude of things to do in the warm months. Warm month activities include everything from outdoor concerts, barbeques, graduation parties, weddings, and their implicit showers, picnics, gardening, garage sales, block parties, and of course that never ending goal to shoot a subpar golf game, and on, and on. In a way the solitude of winter gives the body and mind a chance to rest. Maybe you’re thinking that this alternative, this calm before the storm , can also be called boredom. But sometimes that quiet mind is the source of imagination. I’m not sure Thomas Edison invented the light bulb during a blizzard but I am sure he didn’t squeeze in “invention time” between picking up a graduation gift, getting to the swim meet and preparing and cooking ribs, your assigned dish to pass at the neighborhood block party…. Barbeque ribs, hmm, that seemed like a good idea at the time!
And one more thing. Somehow even with the shorter days and the reduced number of demands on time, more seems to be done. There seems to be both the time and desire to make that quilt, to read the growing stack of books, and while this might be a novel concept (no pun intended), one finishes reading the book before the book club meeting. Practicing the piano, and actually learning how to play the sheet music that has always looked so impressive on piano is done. Sorting through and organizing that stack of photos that chronologically document a family’s life is an undertaken activity. There is even a sense of pride and accomplishment when these things are done. I might even show them off at the various events scheduled to happen during those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Lazy, hazy days of summer, is that a contradiction in terms?!
Am I looking at some idealized bright side of winter? Bright side of winter? Now, that sounds like a contradiction in terms! Honestly, winter can be harsh. The record breaking temperature reeks havoc on the elderly and the very young and truthfully, everyone. The energy costs can be outrageous. Traffic can be hazardous. Snow removal activities can be life threatening. So maybe it’s not so much winter that I believe in as it is the concept of winter. Every year winter brings this forced period of time that seems to slow a person down. It’s sort of like after swimming under water, coming up for air. For a brief period, it seems one can actually accomplish the things that have been talked about for months. One can see what’s important. One can reflect on and value the sharing of conversations with friends on their significant events, their opinions, and their concerns. One can finally “see the forest for the trees” or maybe that should be one can see the “trees for the forest”.
Winter can be, and frequently is described in negative terms. Quote dictionaries are full of winter described as “biting with it’s teeth, lashing with it tail,” or as a season so intense, that only after suffering though it can one appreciate the beauty of spring. The calendar now says the winter months are almost over yet snow in still falling, the temperatures are low and the sky is gray. At a time like this it’s easy to find only faults with winter and one can easily see only the benefits of the summer months. But as I gaze outside I know that come those months I’ll rush from event to event, struggle to get each chore completed, squeeze in vacation week-ends, weeks, overnight visits and wonder all the time if I should had done it differently. And at the height of heat, and the over scheduling I’ll think about how a blast of cold air would feel good and a few calm moments would be cherished. All the quotes and feelings about winter are based on grains of truth, but perhaps William Blake might have described the winter concept and the counterpart seasons the best saying “In seed time learn, in harvest teach and in winter enjoy.” Yes, I believe in winter. Now, where’s that shovel?!